Monday, June 19, 2017

Can we get our act together?

Why is it that like clockwork we find ourselves distracted – unfocused, sidetracked and diverted – time and time again? Now we are engaged in debate if the declaration of martial law in Mindanao is legit. Or if in fact it can be extended beyond 60 days if not nationwide.

We are the New York Knicks, not the Golden State Warriors. Do we know how to play catch-up? It is playing above and beyond, not “pwede na ‘yan” or “bahala na” – which translates to what Trump calls losers.

Can we establish our true north or must we first internalize that foresight is what distinguishes the genius of man? And we cannot simply dismiss what we call the unfettered free market of the West or the curtailed freedom of the Asian Tigers. There is a middle ground that we must seek. To find his place in the sun, Juan de la Cruz must be a man of vision and values. To the writer’s grandfather, it is called backbone.

As some would know, the writer’s maternal grandfather – an admirer of Rizal – and who became a Mason but let his wife raise the children as Catholics being herself a Catholic, called out the backbone of Juan de la Cruz or the lack if not the absence of it.

Does the war on drugs qualify as our true north? What about the war against ISIS?

Indeed, Mindanao in and of itself is a complex problem. If there is anything worse than PH underdevelopment, it is Mindanao underdevelopment. Its underdevelopment magnified the sense of rejection felt by our Muslim brothers and sisters – which makes Mindanao a fertile ground for insurgency.

Yet we say they are part of us because our Constitution says so. [Do we ever ask if we sound like the scribes and the Pharisees?] It parallels our own homes: we have a maid’s room that is not equal to our room. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. A second-class citizen will behave like a second-class citizen. But we take it for granted given our hierarchical instincts.

We brought the problem of Mindanao upon ourselves as much as we brought PH underdevelopment upon ourselves. And until we take personal responsibility to find our place in the sun we shall be the laughingstock of the region if not the world.

And problem-solving is not one-dimensional as in Federalism will wipe our tears away. Especially if our values of hierarchy, paternalism, political patronage and oligarchy cannot make us commit to and live by the rule of law. Or why innovation calls for both the soft and hard sciences; while competition demands an egalitarian ethos. We can be out of sync with what the world is about at our peril.

For decades, we haven’t gotten to the root of our underdevelopment. Think Singapore. Development – read prosperity – gave their different ethnic groups a compelling reason to live together.

And while Marawi is headline news, we are debating if it is PPP or ODA. But the real challenge is, is it Build! Build! Build! or the imperative of an ecosystem – founded on infrastructure development, industrialization and competitiveness? In other words, we must connect the dots. It’s called foresight. 

We must overcome circular debates cum crab mentality – think conservatives versus liberals in the US and the UK, and who would think that the once vaunted Anglo-Saxon team will go through rough patches, while the Frenchman Macron wants to ditch the divisions between left and right – if we are to erect “the must” ecosystem, one that will lift us up from decades of underdevelopment.

Of course, we have pockets of competitiveness – and tycoons and global enterprises. But they don’t lift our ranking in the metrics of development, and remain the regional laggard. Our value of hierarchy and paternalism nourishes political patronage and oligarchy that in turn defined us.

And because ours is a restrictive economy, we are digging ourselves deeper in the hole given we are not developing farm teams or a deep bench that can compete in a highly globalized world. Will we ever realize that parochialism and insularity exact a heavy price? Not if hierarchy and paternalism locks us inside the box of destiny unable to imagine and visualize far out into the future. To instinctively imagine and visualize the future means one is forward-looking and forward-thinking.

Think Trump who built his business via political patronage and a network of foreign oligarchy. Not surprisingly, he wants to undo American exceptionalism. Not surprisingly as well, exemplars of American innovation are not in bed with him. 

What we in the Philippines need is to create the ecosystem that will drive development. And the blog has teed up the Singapore miracle, the Pearl River Delta Economic Development Zone and Iskandar Malaysia as models we can learn from; as well as the Asian Tigers and the up-and-coming ones – being living examples captured by the body of knowledge on the journey from poverty to prosperity that resides at Oxford University.

Yet our national conversation continues to reinforce and perpetuate sub-optimization – which is anathema to excellence. Or simply put, we’re neither here nor there. And why perhaps the grandfather called out our backbone.

And despite a world that is rapidly evolving especially because of innovation and globalization – notwithstanding Brexit and why Macron won and May shamed – we can’t help but point to the downside of technology given how underdeveloped we are.

Clearly we see both sides of the same coin. As consumers of technology, we partake and indulge in it; but given we’re not the creators of technology, we are fearful. Fear of the unknown is indeed terrifying.

And that is what Trump and the Brexiteers exploited.

And which is why the blog talks about the writer’s Eastern European friends. They are constantly working – internally (among themselves) and externally (with partners from the developed world that were drawn by their persistence to excel, including the writer and why he stayed on well beyond his one month commitment) that product development and R&D-wise they live in the future – to create products meant to raise man’s wellbeing.

Yet, it does not have to be earthshaking as the blog pointed out in the case of Palawan tourism. If we connect the dots, it is not rocket science to figure out that we need toilet facilities especially along the most popular routes to make the Palawan tourism product experience truly pleasant and agreeable – and worth a repeat buy and another and another …

More to the point, we have been promoting MSMEs for decades as a livelihood undertaking or a job-creation initiative – ever conscious of their limited access to capital. In other words, we see enterprise as a finance-driven exercise – and not surprisingly, we value oligarchy and pigeon-hole people into capital or labor, rich or poor as in destiny.

Think Edison or Jobs or Gates or Zuckerberg, that is, to create something of value that will respond to human needs – to serve humanity, as Tim Cook echoed the mantra of Steve Jobs.

It starts in the mind a.k.a. foresight. The writer’s Eastern European friends did not have the means if capital is the basis of imagining and visualizing the future. And it explains why our MSMEs deliver a hugely disproportionate lower economic contribution even when they represent more than 99% of registered enterprises.

Garry Kasparov, who battled technology in the person of Big Blue on the chessboard, appreciates why the human species stand alone … robots can follow instructions but are too dumb to dream.

Do we need to learn to dream as a people to develop the foresight that is inherent in each of us – and once and for all toss “pwede na ‘yan” and “bahala na”? [As well as discard our culture of impunity! If we need another People Power, it must be to discard this culture that we say we abhor but live with – take our value of oligarchy.] And get our act together and confidently traverse the way forward for Juan de la Cruz? 

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

No comments:

Post a Comment